As we drove the curvy mountain roads toward the starting line at 2:30 Saturday morning the van was pretty quiet. Especially quiet for a team that had been chatting constantly all week about everything from GU flavors to training plans. My mind was still a little fuzzy (as it usually is at that hour). As we got into Annecy and got closer to the starting line, the years of dreams about competing for Team USA started becoming clearer…and scarier. I started thinking, “I’ve never climbed 17,000 feet in a day before, I’ve never run with a pack on before, I’ve never eaten real food during a race before! This terrain is far more technical than anything I’ve ever run. How much blood did they take for yesterdays drug test? Will that effect me?! Did I eat too many baguettes yesterday? Did I eat enough baguettes yesterday? This could be a very rough day…” But as we got to the start line, put on our head lamps and stripped off our USA warm-ups the worry melted away, and I remembered, This IS GOING to be a rough day. That’s what ultrarunning is; rough. Expecting anything less than getting your bell rung is a mistake. The sport is a marriage of freedom and suffering that will make you extremely tired but also unbelievably free.
The starting gun went off at 3:30 A.M. We ran through a tunnel of fans holding fireworks and flares, down the boardwalk on Lake Annecy, and then began the first climb up Semnoz. The trail was dark, wet, and fairly quiet. Near the top of the climb the trail popped out in a campground complete with large expedition tents, campfires, and huge geo-domes lit up with purple and green laser lights. The place looked like it had been the scene of a pretty spectacular alpine party the night before, but maybe that’s just how people camp in France. From the campsite to the top of Semnoz the trail was lined with flaming torches, it made for a pretty spectacular sight. From the top we descended down through the ski resort on a fairly rocky jeep road, and continued down to Saint Eustache. On the way we passed though many tiny towns where spectators were cheering and ringing bells. From there we went back up and down 5 more major climbs and descents from which I will spare you the details. Here are some pics from the day.
On the ascent up Col de la Forclaz I started hearing the ringing of cowbells in the distance. I was pretty hungry and thirsty and was looking forward to an aid station, or at least a town to fill up a bottle. The higher I climbed the louder the bells got, and the drier my mouth got. I was really looking forward to an aid station. As I crested the hill, I looked down to a green valley full of cows eating, bells swinging in the wind…It was not from the encouragement I was looking for but in its own lonely way, it was far better.
Over the final climb up Mont Baron I ran out of water, got hot and started bonking pretty good, it was really motivating knowing my teammates were counting on me to power through the hard sections, and it was really inspiring knowing they were doing the same thing. In the end the US men’s team took home the silver medal. Here are a few post race photos.
Here is a brief summary of what I used during the race. -Ultimate Direction AK 2.0 Pack – 3 Simple Bottles- Great hands free bottles that fit in pockets, waist band or pack(message me at davidlaney12 at Gmail.com for a 35% off promo code) simplehydration.com – 2 UGo Bars- Really good, fast and easy to digest, Check them out at UgoBars.com -Special Edition Nike Zoom Kiger 3’s. You can buy them soon at Nike.com/Trail – A bunch of GU, Shot Blocks and Coca-Cola.
Thanks to Bryon Powell and Meghan Hicks of IRunFar.com for their coverage of the event for friends, fans and family around the world. These two do an awesome job and are all over the course taking pictures and tweeting standings/updates.
Thanks to Team Coach Richard Bolt for being an awesome support system, crew, and manager while in France, and thanks to Nancy Hobbs, USA UltraRunning and ATRA.
Finally a HUGE thanks to Trail Butter for creating a “TEAM USA” flavor and supporting us with the proceeds from sales of that flavor. It is amazing to see a small Oregon company volunteer big support for the team. Without support like this the elite component of trail running would not survive. The small companies that give back to the sport in a big way are necessary for dreams to come true, and to you we are all very grateful. Check them out at TrailButter.com
And for those of you that are still reading, here are a few more pics from the event.